Should you buy a Softail or a Sportster? How do they stack up in terms of looks, power, performance, value and so on? This article is going to cause some arguments because most people who have owned one or the other have formed solid opinions on which is better.
They’re both great bikes. Both Softail and Sportster are built in America, by Americans, according to strict Harley-Davidson® standards. People describe both using words like “iconic,” and “legendary.” But talk with any group of experienced Harley® owners and the Softail vs. Sportster debate will spark vehement debate for hours.
The thing is, there’s not really one definitive answer because it depends on what you’re looking for. Let’s look at Softail vs. Sportster similarities and differences so you can choose the one that seems the best fit.
Softail vs. Sportster Looks
When people shop bikes, before they compare things like storage capacity, infotainment, fuel tank size and other details, they consider all their choices and gravitate toward the one that’s most aesthetically pleasing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so whether you prefer Softail vs. Sportster looks will be personal and likely not subject to change.
In part, it’s about how you see yourself, how you want your bike to make you feel. If you’re going for performance, speed, and adrenaline, you’ll have different preferences from the rider who wants to take in mile after laid back mile on a comfortable cruiser in your leather jacket.
There are some variations, and you can customize any Harley, but in general, Sportsters are more modern looking while Softails have more of a classic look. However, that’s not an absolute. Fat Bob and FXDR are both aggressive-looking bikes, and Sportster’s 2020 Forty-Eight and Roadster both have more chrome and less blacked-out machinery and classic detailing.
Softail vs. Sportster Performance
If you take the most basic from-the-factory Iron 883 and compare it to a Softail Standard, here are some of the 2020 model specs:
|2020 Sportster Iron 883||2020 Softail Standard|
|Engine||Air-cooled, Evolution||Milwaukee-Eight 107|
|Bore||3 in.||3.937 in.|
|Stroke||3.811 in.||4.374 in.|
|Displacement||53.9 cu in||107 cu in|
|Engine Torque||53.8 ft-lb||110 ft-lb|
|Lean angle, right||27||28.5|
|Lean angle, left||28||28.5|
See the rest of the comparison for yourself on the official Harley-Davidson® website at https://www.harley-davidson.com/us/en/tools/compare-bikes.html#model=2020-iron-883--2020-softail-standard.
But again, it's not cut and dried, and definitely not simple. Softails have more motor, but Sportsters are lighter and more agile. There's a reason people race them. At Dallas Harley-Davidson, we specialize in creating custom motorcycles in both families.
Some people shy away from Sportsters because while they love the look, sound, and ride, others tell them Sportsters are only a beginner bike, or that they'll be sorry and want to upgrade within a year. Don't let others make your decision for you if you love a bike. For some riders, the power and agility of a Sportster is all the thrill they could ever want. If you decide at some point you want more, you don't have to get a new bike. Talk to us about stage upgrades and you'll be surprised what's available.
Softail vs. Sportster Comfort & Convenience
In 1957, rider Bill Davis adapted his Super Glide with a hidden rear suspension system to make it more comfortable. The design looked like a hardtail motorcycle but it was a lot easier on the spine. Harley® started manufacturing motorcycles with his design in the 80s. The whole point was to make a bike that had a smoother ride, and Softail still delivers on that front.
Harley makes performance packages for both Softail and Sportster that will get you exactly the bike you're looking for. For example, The Day Tripper will get customize a Softail Standard in classic bobber style by adding a passenger seat, a detachable sissy bar, footpegs for your passenger, forward foot controls, and a swingarm bag for weekend road trips. Or, the Touring Package comes with a quick-release windscreen, larger saddlebags, a backrest pad, and other upgrades. Sportser also comes with a huge range of customizations and modifications to upgrade comfort and convenience.
Final Answer: Which One Should You Buy?
If you want to know for sure which one is better for you, the best way to tell is to visit our dealership and sit on the models that interest you. If you have concerns about performance, comfort, fit, or any other issue, our staff can help. We don't believe in pressure tactics, we sincerely want to help you find the right bike for you. Stop by today or give us a call at 972-270-3962.